The summer of 2016 was decidedly more disappointing than usual when looking to the movie theater. Nearly all of the highly anticipated blockbusters failed to live up to expectations, either critically or financially. Most recently we were treated to an unnecessary remake of Ben Hur, Suicide Squad was an incoherent mess, and Star Trek Beyond paled in comparison to its predecessors. I found myself walking away from almost every tentpole movie with a tinge of regret, despite any fun I may have had. I felt that I was doomed to a summer movie season devoid of any original, entertaining films outside of the independent scene.
But then, in the second to last week of August, I finally found the movie that had been missing all summer. A colorful, thoughtful, heartwarming film that was clearly a labor of love. If you’ve felt similar to my earlier sentiment, I can wholeheartedly recommend you check out Kubo And The Two Strings.
Kubo comes from the animation studio Laika, the minds behind Coraline and Paranorman. Nearly all of their past films have played with some element of horror filmmaking, toeing the line between animation intended for adults or for children. Kubo And The Two Strings is a tale rooted in Japanese mythology, following a young boy on a quest to reclaim a long-lost relic.
The story introduces a great cast of supporting characters, voiced by Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey and Ralph Fiennes. With beautiful animation, the team at Laika have put together another fantastic family film.
Only, not very many families went to see it. Kubo And The Two Strings debuted at a very modest #4 at the box office last week, scoring just about $12 million domestically. Two slots ahead of Kubo was another animated film, in its second week of release, Sausage Party.
Seth Rogen’s latest animated exercise in profanity has recently come under fire when a number of the film’s animators spoke out abut the conditions they worked in. Their claims include being forced to work overtime to get the film out on time, and most of them ended up left off the credits of the final film. Still, crowds turned up to Sausage Party with huge returns, as the film aimed to prove that animation can be for adults (which shouldn’t be news to anyone).
Meanwhile, Kubo And The Two Strings features a vignette laid over its closing credits that details how one of the massive models in the movie was filmed in stop motion. We can see a full team of artists assemble, paint, and pose the sculpture and take pride in their work.
It feels like a statement on the lackluster slew of recent blockbusters that a film whose creators deemed controversial and spoke out against manages to be a bigger hit than one that took years to put together and is chock-full of originality and heart. Despite being the worst performing film from Laika yet, I hope we are able to see more films like Kubo And The Two Strings in the future.